Study links EHR adoption with decline in malpractice claims

The implementation of an electronic health record (EHR) system is associated with a significant reduction in malpractice claims against physicians, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

For the study, researchers from Harvard Pilgrim health plan, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and other Harvard-affiliated groups analyzed claims data from a Massachusetts-based malpractice insurer dating from 1995 through 2007. They combined the data with information from a survey of physicians administered in 2005 and 2007.

Researchers then analyzed the annual rates of malpractice claims filed before and after the physician practices adopted an EHR system.

They found that 49 unique malpractice claims were reported for physician practices that had not yet adopted an EHR system and two unique claims were reported for physician practices that had completed EHR implementation.

The findings show that the adjusted rate of filed malpractice claims decreased six-fold among physician practices that had adopted EHR systems, according to the researchers. They noted that the findings reflect a reduction in the number of all closed claims, not just claims that resulted in malpractice payouts.

Researchers acknowledged several limitations to the study, such as the fact that the data came from physician practices that were covered by a malpractice insurer. Researchers also noted that data about malpractice claims filed post-EHR implementation covered only a short period of time, and that other unmeasured factors could have contributed to the decrease in malpractice claims (Phend, MedPage Today, 6/25; Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 6/25 [subscription required]; Quinn et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, June 2012 [subscription required]).

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